by Paula Citron
The Shaw Festival’s powerful production of Tennessee William’s Summer and Smoke is the result of the strong vision of director Neil Munro. Set designer Peter Hartwell has provided an expressionistic look featuring benches and pillars so that the actors can move freely between scenes. Christina Poddubiuk’s Edwardian costumes set the period without being obtrusive.
Munro’s signature has always been a restless, edgy energy. Nicole Underhay captures that mood absolutely in the coiled spring of Alma’s repressed sexuality. She is a nervous motor mouth who can’t shut up to the point of irritation. Jeff Meadows as the feckless John is all the more sleazy for his fresh face good looks.
The show is a triumph of casting with Sherry Flett as Alma’s mad mother and Guy Bannerman as John’s noble father being particularly outstanding.
Munro’s take on the play is to present raw and ravaged people. That’s why the production works.
Summer and Smoke continues until Oct. 27.
From the Royal George Theatre, I’m Paula Citron, arts reviewer for CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.